Joe Biden’s campaign message thus far has essentially been an extended #TBT: An Instagram-filtered remembrance of Better Times, when things actually sucked a lot but white people who made more than the median income were able to pretend it was fine, and a promise that we can return to this nostalgic bliss. It was all Parks & Recreation and Obama singing Al Green; no drone strikes or deportations, no sir.
A crucial component of this message is the completely false idea that Republicans will have “an epiphany” if Donald Trump were to lose re-election, and would therefore be willing to work with a President Biden on any number of issues. But, as Politico reported today, there is a slight snag: Many of the Republicans he worked with in the Senate are long gone, and the ones who are left simply don’t care.
Take this opening anecdote:
Joe Biden is making his bipartisan bona fides a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, boasting recently that he persuaded three Republican senators to support the economic stimulus that helped save the country from catastrophe.
“It was my job to find them. To persuade them to vote for it. And I did,” he said in Philadelphia this weekend.
The only problem: Olympia Snowe is retired, Arlen Specter is dead and Susan Collins will be defeated if Democrats get their way next year.
Does anyone who has paid attention to the Senate in the last couple years think Susan Collins, who voted for Brett Kavanaugh with the same justification as the rest of her dipshit colleagues, is the hope and savior of Democratic priorities in the Senate? No. They do not.
Some of Biden’s old Democratic colleagues in the Senate are similarly naive: Sen. Tim Kaine “pointed out that he and McConnell sponsored legislation together this week.”
That bill? Raising the federal smoking age to 21. A Green New Deal it ain’t. Not only is this one of the few relatively uncontroversial notions left in American politics (smoking is bad), but it’s also actually less impressive than it sounds: The bill is supported by tobacco giants like Altria, possibly because, according to the American Heart Association’s CEO Nancy Brown, it helps them “score a public relations win or weaken efforts to pass more restrictive policies.” And other anti-tobacco groups have warned that the bill may end up being weakened with provisions that help the industry.
Yes, bipartisan legislation does occasionally get passed. But it is small-ball stuff compared to the towering pile of shit that needs fixing in this country. We have 30 million Americans who are uninsured, and millions and millions more who can’t afford to use their health insurance. We have seniors struggling to pay for their drugs. We have children studying in crumbling schools. We are careening towards climate apocalypse.
If a Democratic president spends much of their time and effort pursuing only or mostly policies that can get some Republican support, things will not change enough to help the millions of Americans that need help. The scale of the policy changes that we need is too vast to pursue a Republican mollification strategy.
Any solution to these problems that is worth passing, and that doesn’t simply kick the can down the road or carve out special protections for the industries that got us here, will not come with Republican support. Joe Biden should realize not just that most of his mates from the Senate are dead and gone, but that they were only ever his friends, and not a friend to the average people he’s supposed to be helping.
He won’t, though, so vote for someone else.